But not divide and “Conquer,” here we are at the end of The Walking Dead’s fifth season. There’s been a lot of buildup to this as Rick and pals slowly assimilate to life in the Alexandria Safe Zone without letting it change them.
The episode begins with Morgan awakening in a car, in a moment that I’m positive could double for a car commercial. As he eats his breakfast, he’s confronted by a man, played by Benedict Samuel with a gun and a W on his forehead. After a bit of history on wolves, the man is quite cordial to Morgan. After all, he doesn’t get to meet people that often- maybe one person every two weeks at that. And his group would normally just raid camps, but here, he has the opportunity to speak with someone as an equal.
But enough pleasantries. The man has come for all of Morgan’s stuff, including Morgan’s body. Morgan offers all of his items to the man, letting him know that this situation doesn’t need to get ugly. As Morgan reaches for his gun, the man warns him against that and simply tells him to be very still.
Luckily, Morgan is smarter than that and senses the ambush from another man. Morgan overtakes the two and places them in the car before heading off.
After a brief look at the ongoing adventures of Daryl and Aaron, we cut to a patched-up Rick awakening with Michonne at his side. Rick laughs, prompting Michonne to ask him what’s so funny. The whole situation reminds Rick of the train car at Terminus. After all that, he’s still here now. As for why Rick is in this location, Deanna wanted him put there. Rosita was nice enough to patch him up. Pete, for the time being, has been placed in another home. Rick would have filled Michonne in, but between losing Noah and everything else, he couldn’t tell her about the gun.
Now, Michonne is still convinced that they need to stop living like they’re outside Alexandria’s walls, but Rick isn’t on board with that. Glenn, Carol, and Abraham soon enter and Rick explains that he only took a gun from the armory just in case. Deanna is planning to have a meeting to discuss what happened last night and what to do with Rick. Maggie is currently with Deanna now to figure out what’s going on. Carol advises Rick to just say he was worried about what Pete was doing to Jessie. Say what they want to hear- same as what Carol has been doing. Why? Because these people are children and children like stories.
But if the nice words won’t work, they still have knives since the armory is being guarded. If things go south, Rick will whistle. Carol will then take Deanna, Rick takes Spencer, Michonne grabs Reg, and Glenn and Abraham will watch the crowd. If they can’t get through, they’ll just slit their throats. You know, like at Terminus. Just hand over the armory and it’s done. Rick didn’t want this, but he hit his limit.
Maggie tries to appeal to Reg and Deanna on tonight’s meeting. Sending Rick out won’t work. Deanna still made the choice to let everyone in, but now she’s putting a decision on a group of frightened people who may not have the full story. That, Maggie says, isn’t leadership. Even still, Deanna insists that tonight is just a forum for people to say their piece. After that, she’ll keep making the decisions as she’s been doing.
Even still, Maggie insists that Rick just wasn’t thinking straight. He was frustrated and has lost so much. Sure, he took a gun and pointed it at people, but he didn’t pull the trigger. That’s kind of a bullshit argument, Maggie. Reg spits some history at Maggie: the cavemen were all nomads before they died. Then people evolved into this and lived. Civilization starts when people stop running, stop sending people away from the world, and they start living together. That’s what he’s going to tell everyone tonight.
Sasha takes a walker to a pit of other walkers that I assume she killed. After dumping a body in, she rests in the pit herself. There has to be a better way to sleep like the dead.
Daryl and Aaron continue on and we learn about the people exiled from Alexandria: two men and a woman. Davidson was their leader. Aaron thought they’d work out, but they didn’t. Since he brought them in, he, with the help of Aiden and Nicholas, had to drive them out and leave them with a day’s worth of food and water. Though Aaron had their guns, he can’t afford to make that kind of mistake again.
Carol wakes Rick up and lets him know that he did a good thing last night. They have more cover and everyone thinks that Rick has been found out. And despite Michonne knocking Rick out- even though he deserved it- Carol is convinced that she’s still on their side, same as Glenn. Rick didn’t tell them about the guns just in case. He’s done lying. So he doesn’t want to lie, but also doesn’t want to try and take over Alexandria? Oh sunshine, you don’t get to have both. Carol should say ‘sunshine’ more often.
As Rick finally walks outside for the first time since the incident, Maggie tells Glenn that she’s making her way around to talk with as many people as possible to solve this issue.
Gabriel, meanwhile, decides to take a walk outside of Alexandria’s walls for awhile. He won’t take a gun, though. The word of God is all that he’ll need.
Rick tells Carl not to attend tonight’s meeting, but to stay home. Home, that’s what Alexandria looks to be right now. Carl still believes that these people will die without them, but Rick knows he may have to threaten someone. He may have spoken his mind last night, but Carl tells him to say it so they can hear him, though Rick doesn’t know if they can hear him. Okay, why does everyone keep saying last night? It was broad daylight during Rick’s rant.
Anyway, Daryl and Aaron have arrived at the Del Arno Foods facility with a lot of food trucks waiting to be pillaged, but lost sight of the man in the red poncho. Sometimes it happens, but you don’t get an opportunity like this every day. If they head back, it means they’re giving up and home is 50 miles back. There are bad people out there, but they need to keep looking for the good ones. And when they find them, Daryl and Aaron will need to feed them.
The two enter and Aaron’s joy at finding a license plate is instantly killed when Daryl opens one of the trucks and springs a trap. Walkers emerge from every direction. The two cut down as many- Daryl makes effective use of a chain- as they can until they enter a nearby car. The glass may hold for awhile, but for now, they need to find something that can block their view. Also, inside the car, Aaron finds a note warning him that bad people are coming. Don’t stay.
Now Carol gets her moment to be a badass. She heads to Pete with a dish and asks- nay, tells him to check on Tara since, you know, he’s a surgeon. Pete wants her gone, but Carol is quick and to the point: she could kill him right now. She would kill him, and who would believe she did it because she didn’t like him? No one. They’d think that he tried to hurt her. He is small and insignificant. In this world, he’s even weaker. If Pete plays his cards right, he won’t have to die. Oh, and though Carol wants her dish back, Pete destroys it anyway. He didn’t even try it.
Glenn follows a trail of walker bodies and someone fleeing from Alexandria, but he’s soon shot by Nicholas. You know, if Nicholas was a smarter man, he’d just finish Glenn off right there. But no, let’s drag this out.
Jessie gets a visit from Rick while she tries to repair her window. She advises Rick against talking since people probably wouldn’t like seeing the two having a conversation. Rick isn’t sorry about what he did, though, no matter what happens.
Back in the car that the walkers didn’t forget, Daryl and Aaron talk. Daryl admits that he came out here so he wouldn’t feel all closed up at the Safe Zone. Being out here is much more suited to him than being back in those houses in Alexandria. Even still, Aaron still has faith in Daryl. After all, he saw Daryl lead the rest of the group to the barn for safety during that storm. That was the point when Aaron knew that he had to bring them back.
Eventually, Daryl decides to head out, while Aaron makes a break for the fence, and that’s not a request. Aaron isn’t having that, though. They fought all this way together and they’ll go out together, if need be.
Luckily, they won’t have to do that, because they’re saved by the arrival of Morgan, who draws enough walkers away for Aaron and Daryl to escape the car safely. The three head back outside the gate and seal it shut. After some introductions, Daryl wants to know why Morgan saved them. Well, all life is precious, Daryl. Aaron informs Morgan about the community in Alexandria, but Morgan politely turns the offer down.
He’s already on his way somewhere, but he’s lost, so he could use some directions. He then shows Daryl a map- the same map that Abraham gave to Rick.
Father Gabriel continues his battle against the elements when he happens upon a walker in the middle of a meal. He’s ready to face the walker, but rather than submit, Gabriel strangles the walker with the noose around its neck. He then crushes it and another walker’s head with a rock.
Abraham pays Tara a visit. Eugene is asleep at her side while Rosita just watches. Abraham tries to sit without waking up Eugene, so Rosita promptly knocks something over to fix that. Eugene and Abraham…sort of make amends. Eugene admits that Tara saved his life and cracked open his gourd in regards to considering implications he hadn’t. Abraham got them there, but Eugene just crafted a top shelf lie to which a person with strength and heroism could apply their talents. Eugene figures that Abraham needed that. That isn’t really the best way to justify a lie, Eugene. Abraham also apologizes for almost killing Eugene, even if he did have it coming.
Gabriel returns to the gate and agrees to speak with Spencer later. He also doesn’t close the gate upon returning. He also doesn’t close the gate upon returning! How do you actually do that?
Glenn catches up to Nicholas and their fight continues. Nicholas manages to overpower Glenn, but leaves him for the incoming walkers…
Rick admits to Michonne about the plan that he, Daryl, and Carol crafted. They only lied because they weren’t sure how Michonne would take it. Rick thought she’d try to stop him. I mean, she did hit him over the head. But that was for the others, not him. They can find a way to make this work, and if not, Michonne is still with them. Something may happen, but that doesn’t mean Rick has to make something happen.
But as Rick leaves, he finds the gate to Alexandria open and a trail of blood. Whoops.
Anyway, time for that meeting to begin, with or without Rick and Glenn. Deanna begins. They’ve assembled to talk about Constable Rick Grimes, how he stole a pistol from the armory and waved it at people, and what he said.
Meanwhile, Sasha pays a visit to Gabriel, as she feels that she’s losing her head, but Gabriel says that he can’t help her. She feels like she wants to die, and Gabriel wonders why wouldn’t she want to die? She doesn’t deserve to be in Alexandria. What she did cannot be undone. The dead don’t choose their lot in life, but the living must face the choices they make. Bob was mutilated and consumed. Tyreese deserved to be there, but not her.
Rick continues to search the area for intruders and happens upon a walker.
Back at the meeting, members of Rick’s group speak on his behalf. He wants everyone to live. That’s who he is and who everyone else in Alexandria will be, if they’re lucky. After all, he’s saved so many lives already. Abraham goes a step further. There’s an ocean of shit out there that these people don’t know shit about. Rick Grimes, however, knows every fine grain of said shit. Abraham really could have picked a better metaphor.
It’s Maggie’s turn. Rick has a good heart and he really does feel the weight of his decisions. All the group members who were together before Alexandria are still a family, and you shouldn’t try to break up family. Wait, hasn’t Maggie lost both her father and, most recently, her sister? You know, her blood relatives?
Deanna then addresses Gabriel’s comments from awhile back about how these newcomers would put themselves before the community, and now Rick’s behavior has demonstrated that behavior. Though we know Gabriel said this, he’s not present, so Deanna is just going off of someone else’s word.
Oh, Nicholas and Glenn fight some more, but Glenn doesn’t kill Nicholas.
And our friend in the red poncho is killed by the two men from earlier, who manage to corral the walkers back into the trucks.
Having had enough of Gabriel giving her guilt, Sasha takes her gun and prepares to put him out of his misery, but Maggie enters and stops her.
Rick delivers a fresh walker’s body at the meeting space and berates the people for not having a guard at the open gate. Hey, Spencer did tell Gabriel to close it, but this is exactly what Rick has been talking about. He didn’t bring the walker in- it got in on its own. The dead and the living will always try to get in because some of the living are inside the walls. They’ll be hunted, used, and others may try to kill them, but the living can kill them first.
They can survive and Rick can show them how. How many people does he have to kill just to save their lives? That’s what he planned on, but he won’t do that. He’ll teach them how to survive. He isn’t sorry for what he said, but that he didn’t say it earlier. They have to be ready for anything that comes their way.
Pete hasn’t got time for that, though, so he rushes in, ranting about how Rick isn’t one of them. He ends up cutting down Pete in the process, and Deanna gives Rick the go ahead to kill Pete, which he does.
Oh, hi, Morgan. Damn, you guys got back pretty fast.
Oh, look, we get some post-credits stuff. Looks like Michonne will hold onto that after all.
There were a lot of moving pieces in “Conquer.” Some worked better than others, but it was an entertaining episode. I don’t personally feel this finale needed to be as long as it was, but I’ll get to that later on.
Again, there are two warring ideologies at work here: Deanna’s path towards civilization that involves everyone, good and bad, pulling their weight and contributing to a growing society, or Rick’s kill or be killed method. At the end of the day, we don’t seem to have settled on one, but the people of Alexandria seem to be warming to Rick’s methods.
Optimism is not ideal for this world. Rick recalled Bob’s words about living in a nightmare versus the real world, when the nightmare is the real world. The same applies to the people of Alexandria. They know that danger still persists beyond the walls of the Safe Zone, but they’ve become too comfortable to living without many cares in the world. They know how to live, but they don’t know how to survive, which is what separates the two groups. Luckily, Rick now looks to be willing to teach the Alexandria community how to live instead of trying to just take over the place.
And this has a lot to do with people realizing that Rick may have a point. You can’t just coast through life without a care. You need to prepare for something like walkers entering your safe zone or violent people already living in your community. If you can’t combat that, your civilization falls apart and your efforts are all for naught. Rick’s group knows that, and it looks as if the Alexandria folks now realize this, especially with Pete’s outburst.
Like it or not, as Maggie said, Deanna made the choice of letting these newcomers stay. That means having to adapt to change, and I like how Maggie is a sort-of mediator. She’s still siding with Rick, but she’s willing to meet with Deanna to smooth over any issues.
Now would Alexandria fall to pieces if Rick and company hadn’t arrived when they did? There’s no way to know for sure since they seem to have gotten along so far, but Rick’s group did give then a jolt to hopefully spring them into action and shake them out of apathy. I’m glad that Rick’s group did ultimately end up siding with him, though wish that it wasn’t as easy because it took away the possibility of there being any in-group tension.
The closest we got was Michonne knocking Rick out last week and being left in the dark about the armory plan. At the end of the day, though, she stuck with Rick because, although she believes that Alexandria can work, she knows that dramatic action may be necessary. She’s just not as willing to jump to that conclusion as Rick is. After all, she’s not the one who punched out Aaron upon first sight.
However, this doesn’t mean that everyone in the group just goes along with Rick’s decisions without questioning their humanity. This used to be Dale’s role, but that has now fallen to Glenn. When Rick talks about potentially slitting the throats of Deanna, Spencer, and Reg so the others would comply, Glenn immediately draws a comparison between that and what happened at Terminus. Glenn knows how harsh the world can be, but he won’t allow it to consume him.
That’s probably why he wouldn’t bring himself to kill Nicholas, as much as he wanted to. He had every reason to, as well. Nicholas did shoot him and leave him to be consumed by walkers, so not like any of us would blame him. By the way, I’m curious as to how Glenn even got out of that walker pile in the first place. He’d already been shot and fought with Nicholas, so he wasn’t in the best of conditions. All of a sudden, though, he’s on top of Nicholas again. What hell?
Also what hell is Sasha. We know the woman is losing herself. Again, we already know this and she’s already had a chance to talk about this with Rosita and Michonne. Having it here again felt a tad redundant because she’s already unhinged. It only felt like it was here so it could be latched onto Gabriel’s subplot with him seemingly accepting the world for what it is. Again, accepting the world for what it is, again.
We saw him tear off his collar before, but now he’s willing to crush a walker’s skull. I guess that’s an upgrade from the female walker he refused to kill before, but if Gabriel’s becoming more cynical, this isn’t exactly new for him. The change is that he’s now willing to call out Sasha for the wrongs that she’s done and how she doesn’t belong in Alexandria.
That’s the whole theme of who survives and who dies that we’ve seen play out on this show a lot, particularly with the folks at Grady Memorial Hospital. Who deserves to live and who should die? Nicholas tells Glenn over and over again that he doesn’t belong outside the walls, while Gabriel believes that someone like Sasha does, but she got to live while good people like Bob and Tyreese died. It’s interesting stuff, but I think these two storylines could have been saved for the next season so we could get more focus on the other plots.
So let’s talk about Aaron and Daryl. Again, I enjoy seeing the two work together and their walker killing adventures help balance out the normalcy we see in Alexandria right now. Well, almost normalcy, anyway. It was great to hear Daryl himself admit that he operates better outside of Alexandria’s walls, and we know he does. Staying cooped up at those houses for so long would change him.
The entire sequence at Del Arno Foods was one of my favorite moments of the episode because of how trapped the two were and the trap itself. Using walkers as a trap isn’t new, but I can’t recall a trap as elaborate as the one set up by The Wolves.
Luckily, though, Morgan arrived in the nick of time. His rescue and takedown of the two Wolves’ members at the beginning showed how much he has changed since we first saw him in the pilot. To survive on your own in this world is not easy, but he’s managed to pull it off and keep moving forward. Now he’s at least back and reunited with Rick.
That said, it’s pretty convenient for Morgan to arrive at the exact moment that Rick executed Pete. Daryl and Aaron left the Alexandria Safe Zone at least two episodes ago and, according to Aaron, they were a good 50 miles away from home. And yet, they got back to the zone in no time.
If we’re going to talk about badass characters, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Carol threatening Pete. Carol Suzie Homemaker has managed to blend in very well, but underneath that calm exterior is a hardened killer who won’t hesitate to murder. Hell, I think she’s probably been more assertive than Rick has as far as taking action against the Alexandria folks. She never drops her guard, proving that when she says at the meeting how much Rick has saved her life, never mind how she saved them from certain death at Terminus. That said, now she can’t get her dish back.
Then we have Rick, who remained resolute in his stance towards the people of Alexandria. He refused to back down and I liked how he only apologized for not saying something sooner than he did. Rick knows that his methods may be extreme, but in this harsh reality, they need to be. One wrong move can lead to your death, so you have to be faster and kill before you wind up dead.
It’s a philosophy that Rick has developed over time and made him into the leader that he is. He would like a civil society, but knows that the walker outbreak is the society that they live in. You have to fight to survive. And if there were anyone qualified to lead these people to action, it would be Rick. They’re going to need each other to survive, but they’ll also need to toughen up if they’re going to make it.
Deanna giving Rick the go-ahead to execute Pete seemed to be the signal that the people of Alexandria are willing to accept what Rick is talking. This doesn’t mean that they’re going to stop listening to Deanna, who learned the hard way about leadership, but the show is trying to compromise between the two leadership styles. The question now is how Alexandria will look come next season.
If I had one complaint about this episode, it’s that I feel the separate storylines kept cutting back and forth between one another towards the end. Again, the stuff with Sasha and Gabriel wasn’t really necessary and that could have devoted more time to Nicholas and Glenn or Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan. I mean, the show literally jumped from one thread to the other, which made it a bit jarring to watch.
Overall, “Conquer” is a good ending to Season Five. While the stakes don’t seem as high as they did in last year’s “A,” the status quo of the Alexandria Safe Zone is slowly shifting as the residents warm up to Rick’s ideals and leadership style. Morgan’s return, particularly just as he witnessed Rick execute Pete, is a welcome addition and I’m interested to see how he’ll fit in Alexandria. And let’s not forget those Wolves, who are apparently not far. See you next season.